Cybercriminals just love Valentine’s Day

Sunday, 17 February, 2019

Was your Valentine’s Day memorable? Was it everything you had hoped? For the world’s hackers and attackers, it was. Latest data from Mimecast Threat Labs as well as Kaspersky Labs shows that the romantic day was a fruitful and profitable holiday for cybercriminals – particularly those behind a ransomware called GandCrab, one of the most successful ransomware packages of the past year.

Mimecast found that GandCrab had been using the theme of Valentine’s day to hook victims in the weeks preceding 14th February.

These included fake emails offering gifts and special offers on Valentine dinners. Fake e-greetings that contained malicious links and malicious and hacked dating apps and websites.

Meanwhile Kaspersky Labs said there had been a vast increase in Valentine-related fraud. They reported that the number of attempts to visit fraudulent websites based around Valentine, which were blocked by Kaspersky’s software had doubled in the first half of February. In all they blocked 4.3 million attempts over the two weeks of February.

When you think Valentine’s Day, candy hearts, roses and chocolate are probably the first things that come to mind. Perhaps the last thing would be insidious email attacks, but this year a group of cybercriminals have brought that idea to the forefront.

These holiday events also offer the opportunity for threat actors to harvest a vast amount of information and data that is input into online shopping websites by coming up with fake websites and fake customer surveys that promise to deliver anything from fake vouchers to ‘great deals’ to the victim.

- Joshua Douglas: VP Threat Intelligence, Mimecast Blog Post

According to research at University College London, feelings of love and romance do actually suppress the areas of the brain responsible for critical thought.

This may well account for the 4,555 people who fell victim to romantic fraud in 2018 and subsequently lost an estimated £50.8 million. This was an annual increase of 27% compared to 2017.

According to the figures from Action Fraud, 63% of victims were women, with female victims losing twice as much as their male counterparts on average. The average age of victims was reported to be 50 years old. But these figures may underestimate the true picture, as victims often don’t come forward due to feelings of embarrassment.

Tim Bamford author picture


Tim is a veteran freelance journalist writing extensively on internet news and cybersecurity.